slfisher 0 Posting Whiz

For many people, the first they heard of Saturday's plane crash at Denver International Airport was via a Twitter message from someone who'd been on the plane, which quickly made its way through the Internet:

"Holy ****ing s*** I wasbjust in a plane crash!"

(Despite what some overly dramatic news reports say, however, Denver resident Mike Wilson was not texting from a burning plane but waited until he was safely off the plane before sending his message.)

Wilson's texting of the incident that night, including such details as "Continental keeping us locked up at the presidents club until they can sort everything out. Won't even serve us drinks." a photo of the crash site, and the fact that the president of Continental was on Wilson's replacement flight to Houston, added important on-the-ground details to the official story, while Continental was still keeping the passengers physically separated from the news media.

Especially coming at the same time that the military is issuing dire warnings of Twitter being used by terrorists, it makes one think of the possibilities.

For example, if Twitter was around in 2001, we might not still be puzzling over the meaning of "Let's roll" -- the last cryptic phone comment from the doomed United Flight 93 on September 11.

Twitter offers a number of advantages of calling on a cell phone:

  • It's silent, thus not drawing attention to the person sending the message
  • People are likely to be able to text coherently even if they might be gabbling in a panic if they tried to speak
  • Twitter is broadcast to a wide potential audience, while a phone call goes to just one person
  • Texting is not affected by outside sounds, whether it's gunfire, explosions, or screams

What if there was a "@911" service on Twitter? A way for people in trouble to issue a text signal and get help?

Of course, there would be a lot of issues to solve. Who would dispatch it? Who would staff it? How would people figure out where the person was and what sort of help they needed? What would prevent people from spoofing the system?

Still. It offers possibilities.

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